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Brain cancer grading

The staging process assesses the spread of cancer beyond the origin site. Brain cancer does not behave in the same way as other cancers. Tumors may migrate within the brain, but it is very rare for primary brain tumors to spread outside of the brain, or away from the central nervous system (CNS).

Consequently, brain cancer is usually graded rather than staged. The brain tumor grading system features four distinct grades and provides your care team with an understanding of how the tumor grows. This process helps our doctors match brain cancer treatments to individual needs.

Assessing brain tumors

To determine the growth and development of tumors in the brain, doctors focus on the characteristics of the tumor and its effect on functionality. The main factors used to assess brain tumors include:

  • Size and location
  • Type of tissue or cells affected
  • Resectability (the likelihood that part or all of the tumor can be removed by surgery)
  • The spread of the cancer within the brain or spinal cord
  • The possibility the cancer has spread beyond the brain or CNS

A complete assessment will also factor in age and any brain cancer symptoms that are limiting basic functions, such as speech, hearing or movement.

cancer stages

Metastatic brain tumors

Secondary, or metastatic, brain tumors, which have spread to the brain from another location in the body, are much more common than primary brain tumors. These tumors are also becoming increasingly more common as individuals do better with cancer treatment and live longer, giving the original cancer the opportunity to spread to the brain.

Some cancers that commonly spread to the brain are lung, breast, colon, kidney, melanoma, thyroid and uterine. Lung cancer is the most common form of metastatic brain cancer. In fact, lung cancer staging often involves a brain scan.

Metastatic brain cancers will likely be assessed through the Tumor, Node, Metastasized (spread) staging system (TNM). Sometimes, individuals are diagnosed with metastatic brain or spinal cancer before they realize they have another, primary cancer.

Meet our neurosurgery experts

neurosurgery module

If you have a neurologic cancer, it's important to be seen by an integrated team of physicians with expertise in performing cancer-related surgical procedures on the nervous system and its supporting structures.

Meet some of our neurosurgery experts:

An accurate cancer diagnosis

accurate cancer diagnosis

Our team of cancer experts uses advanced, minimally invasive diagnostic technology to detect cancerous cells anywhere in the body.

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